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WU softball players awarded 'All-American Scholar Athletes' distinction

Cleighton Roberts

Sports Editor

From left to right: (top row) Sophia Lucio, Mia Lund and Kelsey Wong. (bottom row) Jewel Fleckenstein, Bailey Hillmick and Cassie Cosler.

Six Willamette University Softball players were named All-American Scholar Athletes by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). The award recipients are Jewel Fleckenstein (‘22, outfielder), Mia Lund (‘24, outfielder), Sophia Lucio (‘24 year, outfielder), Cassie Cosler (‘22, first base), Kelsey Wong (‘22, utility) and Bailey Hillmick (‘21, utility). All obtained the award by dedicating hours to the sport every week while also maintaining a grade point average above 3.5 during the 2020-2021 school year.

Softball, just like many other athletics teams, is a large time commitment. Student athletes practice almost every day of the week in both the off-season and during the season. On top of that, they need to stay on top of their studies to keep their GPA high.

“[Softball] takes a lot of organization and dedication to persevere even when it’s hard, because we have a lot of committed time we spend on the field doing our athletics work,” said Fleckenstein “Also with that comes certain consequences in battling fatigue, we lose sleep. The ones who are dedicated make it work and get their homework done and keep studying.”

However, individual motivation was not the only driver that pushed these athletes to become scholar award winners. Just like on the field, the team worked together to succeed. To keep their GPA’s up, these athletes would utilize the team study sessions, even beyond the required hours.

“We had an hour of set aside study hall time, but you could stay as long as you wanted. I sometimes spent two or three hours there,” Lucio commented on the softball team’s organized study hours. Admittedly, there was occasionally time for leisure and socializing, but it was kept to a minimum, allowing players to build natural relationships with one another.

“As a first year last year it was nice to be able to interact with the upperclassmen that might have been taking the same classes as me,” added Lucio. “There was definitely a feeling of mentorship that came from some of the seniors especially, just being able to talk to them and spend time in a setting where we can hold each other accountable for doing our work.”

Of course, this is not new to the softball team. Those who are seniors now had gotten the same support when they first joined the team.

“When I was a first year at Willamette the upperclassmen were very supportive of me,” said Fleckenstein, who is now a senior. “I had teammates who were in the same major that I wanted to go into and they’ve taken all of the classes that I’m going to take in the future. It was really helpful to be able to ask them questions I had like, what is this professor like? And how did you manage your studying?”

This practice has become the precedent of the softball team, as each year upperclassmen set an example for how the underclassmen should provide the same help they were given to the new students in later years.

“[The upperclassmen] have been through it before and they know how it can be tough and they want to make sure that we stay afloat, it sets a good example and the tone for our team,” commented Lund. This practice led by upperclassmen like Fleckenstein, has helped players like Lund and Lucio stay focused on their work enough to achieve a GPA high enough to win the award.

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